Well, the voters have spoken.
In one of the most dominating performances in thoroughbred history, the Eclipse Awards were dominated by California horses who had stellar 2018 campaigns.
Of course, it all starts with Horse of the Year Justify. Bob Baffert’s second Triple Crown winner defied all odds to accomplish what few in the sport has done. And, he did it in six races stretched across less than five months. Justify survived the fastest first-quarter fraction in Kentucky Derby history to not only win the Run for the Roses, but kick start his Triple Crown campaign.
Champion Older Horse went to the John Sadler trained Accelerate, who will run for the final time this weekend in the Pegasus at Gulfstream Park. In any other year, Accelerate would have been Horse of the Year, but no in a Triple Crown year. Second place isn’t bad for a horse who beat all comers in winning five Grade 1 races in 2018 including the Breeders Cup Classic.
California based trainer Peter Miller had another phenomenal year with two champions — sprinter Roy H and turf champ Stormy Liberal. Stormy Liberal becomes the first sprinter in Eclipse Award history to win champion turf horse. That honor is normally reserved for longer race turf champs.
Champion Older Female went to Jerry Hollendorfer trained Unique Bella. A monster sprinter who had very few rivals, Unique Bella won three graded stakes races including two impressive Grade 1 wins. The daughter of Tapit was retired in August because of an injury.
Owner of the Year went to Pete and Kostas Hronis of Hronis Racing. They rode the coattails of several Grade 1 wins in California, highlighted by Champion Older Horse Accelerate. In addition to their Breeders Cup champ, Hronis Racing saddled Catalina Cruiser, Yuvetsi, and Gift Box, all grades takes winners. Their racing stable led the country in earnings with just over $7,000,000.